When the 127 Yard Sale is in town, it is met with mixed emotions. 

I, however, prefer to use it as an opportunity for a personal family holiday, a tradition of sorts. In 13 years, I have missed one sale. 

I’ll never do that again. 

I use it as a teaching tool, albeit a really fun one, for my children.

They get a glimpse of times past and bits of my childhood or my grandmother’s childhood. They benefit from a history lesson every time we come across a yard sale item from a bygone age. 

They get a story about how clever the old folks were, how hardworking people had to be, the culture of the time, the tools they used back in that day and responsibilities people had. They get a first-hand look at where we came from and can measure it against where we are now. 

Our 127 Yard Sale tradition is that I give each of the kids an allowance, they shop and then we vote to see who got the Most Unique, Best Deal, Largest for the Least Amount and Biggest Saver. 

Their allowance used to be $5, but I gave them $10 each this year. My third child, Zolah, asked why they were getting $10 to spend. 

My answer? “Inflation.”

Hagglewarts

History lessons aside, which has many glorious benefits, my kids are now enrolled in the Homeschool of Hagglewarts. 

With their allowance, the kids are forced to budget for things they want from the 127 Yard Sale. They also have to keep in mind that they may see something else later on that they may want and may want to budget for that possibility. I want them to be confident in their abilities to deal with money, deal with people and deal with responsibility. 

When they were younger, I would assist them when making a deal. This year I encouraged them to exercise their business and negotiation skills on their own. When they expressed interest in an item, I would give them some, “If they… then you,” advice as we went.

But, the deals were in their hands. 

When it comes to haggling, there are a couple of philosophies I employ. 

Hagglewarts Philosophy 1

The first and most important point is: “The worst thing they can do is say, ‘No.’” 

Kids often say things like, “I was afraid to ask.” Actually, they are afraid they will hear the word, “No.” They are afraid of that rejection or the feeling the subsequent embarrassment. 

My kids know that “no” is not a bad word and they should take it at face value. It is a simple, nonjudgmental and inoffensive response to an offer as described by that person’s reflection of its value. “No” is not personal.

If the situation was reversed, would my kids not want the right to refuse an offer if they didn’t think it was in their best interest? 

Of course they would. Exercising this philosophy, my kids understand it’s not an insult to be told, “No.” If that’s the worst-case scenario, then it’s really not that bad. 

They’ll need to know this throughout their lives, not just at the 127 Yard Sale.

Hagglewarts Philosophy 2

The second philosophy is: Vendor reading is underrated.  

I can get a pretty good idea about how to work a deal based on a reading of the vendor’s enthusiasm. 

Reading other things, like a vendor’s set-up, organization and types of items, can also give telltales on whether or not negotiations would be welcome. Should I “read” that a vendor would be hard pressed to negotiate, I have to decide the value I hold in an item of interest then angle for my perceptive value. See Philosophy 1.

Actually, vendor reading is really helpful when navigating the art of the deal. It’s helpful in everyday life, from board meetings to the grocery store. You never stop needing people skills, and this is one of the most important of them. 

When you read a vendor, you lead up to the “offer-counter-offer” phase with more confidence because reading the vendor gives you a gauge.

You can gauge the vendor’s “low or no” point. They want to sell. You want to buy. The relationship between those two is the point at which the deal is made. Reading the vendor gives the buyer the foresight to negotiate more effectively. 

My youngest, Zuranda, was a little shy about haggling at first. She was interested in a vintage toy horse. It was only our second stop during the duration of the sale. I read the vendor and told her if the vendor said $2, she could offer $1. Well, the vendor did say $2. Instead of offering $1, she looked at me. I read her, too. Her beautiful dark green eyes silently asked me if $2 was OK and, if not, beckoned me to do the haggling for her. 

I didn’t. I told her it was up to her, but she would have only $8 left for the rest of the sale. If she wanted to make a better deal, she would have to do it herself. 

In Zuranda’s case, she didn’t haggle him because to her the toy horse was worth the extra $1 and saved her from having to counteroffer. So she bought it for $2.

As we perused the tables full of yard sale items, this particular vendor had a great time showing my kids all the vintage toys I remembered from my childhood, antique tools and their uses. He also showed them how indoor plumbing used to be a chamber pot crock in the corner of the boudoir. The kids showed interest and held conversations with him. They visited. They enjoyed each other’s company and time. 

By the time we left, he’d given them all something. He gave Zuranda two other toy horses to add to the one she’d bought. He gave Zolah a carousel horse floor-stand decoration that she decided to redecorate and hang from the ceiling in her bedroom. He gave Zeke a keyboard. 

On another day, at another vendor, Zuranda found a Ty puppy that looked like our Bassett, Tugg. She wanted to buy it. Like before, I told her, “If the vendor says $1, offer 50 cents.” As she walked toward the tent to find the vendor, I said, “Haggle.”

And haggle she did.

I stayed back, standing far off enough not to be able to hear the conversation, but I could tell by their body language and facial expressions how the conversation was going. She was asking how much the stuffed toy dog was. I didn’t hear his answer but then she said something back. The expression on that vendor’s face told me everything. He slung his head back, and he couldn’t stomach telling her, “No.” She had whittled him down off the asking price. He was asking $1 for the toy puppy. She countered with 75 cents. He accepted but not before he could believe his ears that my tiny little lady was exercising and gaining confidence in her haggling skills. 

Hagglewarts Philosophy 3

Take the kids. Kids are cute. People like kids. Kids get things for free. There’s not a lot of science behind this philosophy. It’s just a fact. But, I have also found that when people give things to my kids, they often offer things to me. Maybe they just like how we interact together and do things as a family. Maybe they want to adopt us. Maybe they just want to get rid of things. No matter the motive, in my experience, when I take our hoard of hoarders to the sale, we are rewarded.

Unfortunately, pets do not generally get the free stuff, even though they are also cute. If you don’t have any kids to take to the sale, borrow some. Have a day out with the niece and nephew or take the grandkids. People and couples shopping “kidless” are perceived to have more money to spend. Vendors may not give as much leeway in the haggling game as they would to say a family with several children, where they can assume money is a bit tighter. Vendors also are generally less comfortable with being hard-nosed about prices and negotiations when there is an precious, innocent child standing nearby. 

Hagglewarts Philosophy 4

To haggle or not to haggle. That is the question. Not everything has to be haggled. One booth had, “Let’s haggle. Let’s negotiate,” signs all over it. The asking price for two vintage aprons and a old wooden meat mallet for my mid-century kitchen was $8. I offered $5. The deal was struck and I feel like I got a fun little bargain. I paid $2 asked for a vintage tea towel that also matches my kitchen.

 There, Zuranda also found a glass horse and buggy figurine she wanted to use to hold her earrings. The vendors, a mother and son from Texas, offered it to her for $3. Zuranda thought it reasonable and paid for yet another item that she found dear and could add to her horse collection. 

I found a woodland portrait backdrop used in school photos for $5. I thought it would be fun to create something with it and thought $5 was reasonable enough. 

Zolah got a horse backpack for $2. She thought it was reasonable. As it turned out, the horse backpack actually sings. 

She thought it was the best deal ever. 

Hagglewarts 

Philosophy 5

Don’t settle. Sometimes you’re not in the market. Whether you have some things in mind to search for or you are waiting to see if an item piques your interest, it doesn’t always follow that a purchase will occur. 

This year, I was in the market for barstools for my kitchen. I found some mid-century stools that were wonderful, but they weren’t going to work for our kitchen unless we built a platform to set them on. 

In spite of this added work, I would have probably bought them if it hadn’t been for the asking price. 

Suffice it to say, I didn’t buy them and the vendor didn’t sell them. 

Sometimes, it’s not worth it. Zeke learned this as well. We found a vendor with interesting finds. As a young man in his teens, Zeke always zeroes in on weaponry, particularly swords. 

Four years ago, he bought a Samurai sword and sheath at the 127 Yard Sale for $5. 

This time he found a sword, examined it and showed interest. He inquired about price. It was $40. 

Zeke decided it wasn’t in his budget, nor was he likely to get the gentleman to come down off the price enough for his allowance. 

Zeke decided it wasn’t worth it and saved his yard sale allowance. In fact, he didn’t spend one dime. 

Instead, he kept it saved until he bought Zolah a birthday treat and an Xbox gift card for gaming with his sisters. 

This year the kids didn’t hold a vote. They were satisfied with their findings, their haggling, their savings and the time spent. 

Besides all the wonderful junk you never knew you needed, the 127 Yard Sale is a unique opportunity, something to relish and enjoy if you can. 

The sale is a bargain in and of itself as it offers more life skills, history lessons and memory making than could ever be found in the same place at once. 

Getting to enjoy my children, with the air wafting of caramel corn and hearing their excitement when they find something neat and asking to pet every puppy there, the only currency I really spend at the 127 Sale is time. 

And that is truly the art of the deal.